Why  Lula Should Be in the White House

    It’s hard not to think the world would be a better place if Lula
    and Bush swapped jobs.
    Wealthy oligarchs, who reach high office
    through nepotism are supposed to be South American.
    In a
    bizarre twist, global bankers love Lula and despair of Bush.

    by:
    Richard
    Adams

    It’s surprising that no one has noticed this, but it looks as if there has been a terrible mix-up involving American presidents.

    For some time there have been suggestions that U. S. President George Bush
    doesn’t know what he is doing. The
    answer is simple: he’s supposed to be the president of Brazil.

    Meanwhile, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva—or Lula, as the new president of Brazil is known—should be president of the
    United States. The mix-up is obvious, when you consider the facts.

    Wealthy oligarchs, who reach high office through nepotism, promoting friends of their family into government while
    presiding over corporate sleaze, and running up vast debts by making tax giveaways to their rich, rightwing supporters—that’s
    the sort of behaviour that South American presidents are renowned for.

    Meanwhile, policies of stern fiscal prudence, applauded by the international financial markets, coupled with tough
    welfare reform, is what is expected from leaders of the United States.

    But in a bizarre geo-political twist, these stereotypes have been turned on their heads. While the President of South
    America’s most important country couldn’t be more different as a person than the President of North America’s most important
    country, it’s hard not to think the world would be a better place if the two men swapped jobs.

    The irony is that during the 2000 U. S. presidential election, the difference between Bush and Democrat candidate Al
    Gore was so slim that the pair were mocked as "Gush and Bore".

    Coming from a conservative background and party, Bush was supposed to stick to the status quo of balanced
    budgets and a strong U. S. currency inherited from the Clinton administration. Few analysts—if any—thought Bush’s narrow
    victory would make any difference to the way the U. S. economy was run.

    Lula’s election was far less auspicious, preceded by dire warnings of economic meltdown—although no one
    accused the populist former union leader as being indistinguishable from José Serra, his technocrat opponent.

    A one-time trade union radical from Brazil’s huge working class, who had run for the Brazilian presidency four times,
    Lula’s election was treated with dismay. He was said to be a firebrand leftwinger who would destroy the stability that Brazil has
    enjoyed since the pragmatismo policies of the previous administration, headed by Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

    Yet since his election, Lula’s policies have met with praise from the bankers that rule the financial markets. Brazil was
    dragged down by Argentina’s economic implosion last year, but since Lula’s victory, Brazil’s currency, the real, has made a
    remarkable recovery on world markets. At the same time, the interest rate on Brazilian government debt has halved since before
    Lula’s election in November, as bankers have started regarding the country as a lower risk.

    While Bush talked a good game about "leaving no child behind" as president, Lula has made social welfare reform
    his centrepiece, to help balance his government’s budget and lower interest rates.

    Policy is moving in the opposite direction under Bush. The U. S. dollar has sunk to its weakest levels since his
    election, while the economy continues to splutter along—despite the U. S. central bank pumping out cheap money at a rapid rate.

    Bush’s answer to the weak economy has been to reach back to the discredited "trickle down" supply-side policies of
    Ronald Reagan, and hand out huge tax cuts to the wealthy—exactly the sort of policies that his own father, George Bush the
    elder, memorably described as "voodoo economics".

    Throughout his election campaign in 2000, Bush regularly pledged to balance the government’s budget. Instead, in
    the words of economist Paul Krugman, the U. S. government "faces the prospect of large deficits as far as the eye can see".

    Bush is offering tax cuts that will cost over $600bn, with more than half the benefits going to the wealthy, those
    making more than $200,000 a year. Of that sum, $150bn is to go to the very wealthy—those making more than $1m a year.

    But the most obvious reason that George Bush should swap Washington for Brasília is that it suits him better. Bush
    spends so much time trying to deny his blue-blood, Ivy League-educated background, by posing as a man of the
    people—slipping off to work on his Texas ranch, wearing cowboy hats, driving a pick-up.

    Lula, on the other hand, grew up in abject poverty near São Paulo, selling peanuts and working as a shoeshine boy.
    He is a real man of the people—and in an ideal world would be in the White House.

    Of course it also means Brazil ends up with George Bush. But then Jorge Arbusto, as he would be known, might
    quite enjoy life up the rugged Amazon. Whether the people of Brazil want him is another matter.

    Copyright: Guardian Newspapers Ltd 2003. The original article can be accessed here:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,12271,884449,00.html  


    Richard Adams writes for British daily The
    Guardian. You can write him at
    richard.adams@guardian.co.uk 

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